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AMA Supercross Thoughts: The Underdogs

Prior to the start of the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series, there was a lot of hype and anticipation surrounding the ‘big four’ (Ryan Villopoto, James Stewart, Ryan Dungey and Chad Reed). However, after two rounds some new faces have begun to surface at the top of the field; the underdogs have started to mount a challenge for the title.

Who would of thought it? Davi Millsaps is currently leading the series standings, with two of the seventeen rounds run thus far. Millsaps was not even considered to be a title contender pre-season, because quite simply he had never put himself in that position previously. What would be different this year? The Rockstar Energy Racing rider has climbed onto the podium at both Anaheim 1, and Phoenix. So, is Davi now a legitimate title contender, or will he end up falling into the lower half of the top ten as the series progresses?

Evidently, Davi Millsaps has made massive steps forward in his program this off-season. I do think that Millsaps’ win at the opening round was no fluke. Davi may have got the holeshot, but he did lose the lead, and still he fought back! It is no secret that Millsaps has sometimes struggled to fight back; perhaps he has turned a corner? In Phoenix, Davi did back up his Anaheim 1 performance. Although he did not win, he managed to climb onto the podium to maintain a one-hundred-percent podium record thus far this season. His speed was once again good (a lot better than it was last year), even though he was not feeling too good all day. I do think that it is surprising that after years on a factory Honda, and JGR Yamaha; it is on a privateer Suzuki that he has excelled. (The Rockstar Energy Racing team does not receive any support from the Suzuki factory, hence why there are no Suzuki logos on the bike).

So, does this mean that even on his off weekends, Davi Millsaps is still capable of climbing up onto the podium? Maybe. But in my opinion, I do think that the Rockstar Energy Racing rider does still need to prove that he can run the pace of the leaders consistently. He is notorious for getting better as the series progresses. But, this year he has started out strong. Does this mean that he will continue to improve? Or has he peaked too early? Time will tell. He would have to run at the front of the pack for the next few rounds before we label him a contender for the title. But, right now Davi is surprising every single fan worldwide, undoubtedly.

Trey Canard has been referred to as both an underdog, and a wildcard thus far this year. But, I do think that the Muscle Milk Honda rider has already proven himself to be just as fast as (if not quicker than) the established ‘big four’. However, the long list of injuries that Canard has sustained throughout his career has left most doubting his talent on a bike. Understandably, most questioned whether or not Trey would return to the top of the sport. But, was it really a surprise to see him up on the podium at the first round, and battling for podium positions again in Phoenix?

I think that already, all of the doubts that everyone had about Trey Canard prior to the start of the season have been washed away; if he hadn’t of had to deal with a small crash on the final lap in Phoenix he would be the series leader! Of course, those small crashes have hurt him in recent years. In retrospect, I would be happy to see Canard make it through the year uninjured. Since he has returned to the track he does seem to just be happy to be there, he isn’t putting a massive amount of pressure on himself to get good results. Perhaps that will mean fewer crashes? If so, Trey might be in a position to battle for the championship at the end of the series.

What about Trey Canard’s Muscle Milk Honda teammate, Justin Barcia? Much like Canard, I do not think that Justin is a true underdog. Sure, there is not really a precedent for a 450SX rookie winning his second race in the class. But, Justin Barcia is not just an average rider; he was expected to win from the very first gate drop in Anaheim. However, because he hadn’t done so previously there was still some doubt about whether or not he could challenge the established front-runners. But already, he too has now erased all doubts people had of him and will be expected to challenge for the win every single week from here on out.

Justin Barcia mentioned in the press conference prior to the start of the season that being dirty and aggressive are two completely different things. I am impressed that thus far this year, Barcia seems to have been aggressive. However, he has not been dirty; Justin Barcia brings a different type of style to the 450SX style. He seems to have brought the intensity from the 250SX class up to the big bike class; it is definitely exciting to watch the rookie chuck the Muscle Milk Honda bike around.

Jake Weimer has really flown under the radar thus far this season. Although Jake finished in fifth at the first round, and sixth at the second; no one has really talked about his speed and how he potentially could jump on the podium in the coming weeks. In a field that has seven potential winners, the results that Weimer has garnered throughout the first two rounds are quite impressive. Most certainly, it proves that he can mix it up with the established leaders.

It is also worth noting that in Anaheim 1 and Phoenix, Weimer did not get the best starts. So, if he can grab a holeshot I am certain that Jake could potentially land on the podium. Maybe he could clinch a surprise win? I do think that Weimer does get overlooked by most fans, but only because the 450SX class is so stacked with talent! Evidently, riding and training with RV [Ryan Villopoto] has helped him massively; he can measure both his speed and conditioning against his teammate, the reigning champion.

I believe that because the underdogs discussed above have broken through into the big four, they have proven that the riders in the second tier can breakthrough also. Josh Grant, Justin Brayton and Andrew Short have all beaten Millsaps, and Weimer previously. It has given the riders in the second tier the belief that they can breakthrough, as well. It is an exciting time to be a supercross fan! When was the last time that there were eight riders that could land on the podium? In the next few weeks, maybe some more underdogs will take a step up?

Words by Lewis Phillips

Picture courtesy of Rockstar Energy Racing

MX Vice Editor || 25

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